Co-founder and CEO of Greenpixie, John Ridd, 29, is building solutions to measure and reduce the emissions of companies’ digital operations, with $103bn (£83.96bn) wasted in idle cloud spend last year.
UK-based Greenpixie is aiming to raise £1.5m on top of its current investment while aiming for Series A in 2023, to bring its cloud emissions software "to the biggest possible audience".
A few years ago I was living in Suffolk where there isn’t a massive tech scene. But there is a company called Infotex, a forward-thinking company handling digital marketing and web development and I was offered an internship in 2015 by Tim Webster, who not only changed my view on what a boss could be like but gave me the ability to my pursue interest in the tech industry.
He was self-deprecating, knowledgeable and didn't wear his role above anyone else. And the position I was in, it gave me the confidence to pursue this tech direction, despite it being out of the norm for somebody from where I was living.
Tim was the head of marketing and his passion for tech was contagious. He took time out of his own time to use data and create cool visuals, he turned me on to SEO and unwinding what the algorithms are actually using as input to infer value. It was the first time I had found a role that suited my way of thinking.
You can only go as far as people let you in a way. If somebody believes in you it can set you on a trajectory and that’s what Tim did for me.
The company told me when I signed the internship not to expect a job at the end of it. But I threw myself into it and ended up as a marketing executive. As an entrepreneur you might not know the perfect thing to do but you get an instinct for it.
Up until that point I sometimes had issues with authoritative figures in my life, but Tim allowed me to be myself, open and to be mentored. We bonded over a love of hip hop, his sense of humour was great and he was a kind soul for the position he was in. There is now a sort of family affair as my brother was also looking to get into digital the same way I was and Tim has taken him on an internship.
I learnt everything digital first and at first I didn’t make the connection between the digital world that I grew accustomed to and the data centre emissions that are associated with it.
It was only when a friend texted me a few years ago following a Channel 4 Dispatches programme investigating the carbon footprint on the tech industry that I released ‘of course that’s the case’. When I dug further I realised that it was 3% of global emissions currently and, by 2030, digital emissions from data centres could be between 10 and 20%.
I learnt from Tim that everything is interconnected within these data centres. I saw an opportunity for a software product to be able to measure all of this at scale and ultimately reduce data automation through optimisation techniques I had originally learnt.
The space is in its infancy and I was shocked that there was not more competition out there. The company started out at a hackathon in Hackney when I shared the idea that a website can have a carbon footprint. There were tools out there to estimate a company’s footprint, but the issue is much bigger than this. When it comes to cloud computing the logic stands up that no one was covering it.
I felt the need to start something from the ground up and move away from consultancy. I self-funded Greenpixie to begin with in order to create the first version.
In April we had created our Cloud NetZero product that could measure cloud emissions, we won a pitch competition and got our first round of £400,000 investment to flesh out our software to be able to service bigger companies.
At pre-seed level, investors say that the only two things you can consider are the market and the founder. What I had was the belief we could do this. You need to be passionate and the people we attracted were drawn into the idea. Starting from nothing, you really do need that.
If something external is going to amount to something great, it comes from giving yourself over to the company. One of the things a lot of founders grapple with is that your ego becomes attached to the company. That’s great, but you also need to stay balanced.
Our mission is to prevent millions of tonnes of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere from data centres. We believe we can do it from the scalability of software.
All the data is there, we just need the software to connect it all up to give transparency over the emissions that these companies are causing, which is hundreds of tonnes in some cases, on a monthly or yearly basis.